Friday, February 26, 2010

A Brief Message to the IOC:

For Pete's sake, settle down.

Two people who probably deserve to enjoy a quiet beer and a cigar.

Although we must admit that attempting to boost the zamboni may have been over the line...

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Spot of Bother on Italian TV

In the videoclip below, you will see Beppe Bigazzi, a fairly well-known Italian chef and specialist in regional delicacies. You will see him get himself in trouble by discussing, with far too much approbation and enthusiasm, a dish apparently native to the Tuscan region of Valdarno, just east of Florence. A dish that is, I would further note, illegal-with-a-capital-I in Italy.

The best part of the video, for me, is the understandably horrified reaction of his co-host, Elisa Isoardi, who finally ends up seeking mortified shelter behind the salad greens. Here's the clip, and I've provided a translation below it:

Bigazzi: Tomorrow is Fat Thursday...

Isoardi: True

Bigazzi: ...which in Valdarno is called "Berlingaccio," because there's a [indecipherable] Berlingaccio. Furthermore, there's a proverb for Berlingaccio: "He who has no fat kills the cat." Because we're in February...

Isoardi: Excuse me...

Bigazzi: ..."Cat February," and one of the great dishes of Valdarno was braised cat.

Isoardi: Braised Otello - no! (Otello is Isoardi's cat - Trans.)

Bigazzi: (sarcastic) Because people don't eat rabbit, they don't eat chicken...

Isoardi: (also sarcastic) No! Let's eat cats, since there are so many of them!

Bigazzi: ...they don't eat pigeon, et cetera? A cat, kept for three days in the running water of a [indecipherable] stream, comes out with its meat white. I assure you - I've eaten it many times - I assure you that it's a delicacy. So now there are going to be letters and things... yes, letters from lovers of nature! Why don't they defend rabbits? For these animals they're racists! Ok, it's not important...

Isoardi: Let's talk about vegetables.

Bigazzi: Why should we talk about vegetables?

The response to Bigazzi's little expedition into cat recipes has been, shall we say, noisy and enraged, and rightly so. The eating of cats, of course, is not an unknown phenomenon, even in the West, where it's generally considered taboo. There's an interesting article on the practise here. However, in most places where cats are kept as pets, they are eaten only as a last resort, when instability or other factors have caused severe food shortages.

A cat- and dog- butcher in Paris during the Prussian siege of the city, 1870-71.

The Valdarnese proverb quoted by Bigazzi, "he who has no fat kills the cat," in fact speaks directly to this motive. Cats are to be eaten only by someone who is desperately starving. And it is worth pointing out at this point that the Valdarno has suffered periods of extreme privation during its history - during the upheavals of the Renaissance before the Florentines took over the area, for example, and more recently during Fascism and the Second World War. I would hazard that the use of cats for food in the area grew out of one of these periods.

There is also the question that Bigazzi hints at towards the end of the clip: why don't the people who are outraged at the thought of cat-eating get similarly worked up over the consumption of, for example, rabbits? It's a good question, but one with a simple answer: it is because cats are considered pets. This means, among other things, that we tend to view them individually rather than collectively, which is a good and humane impulse. As an example of such a view, take Isoardi's response to the first mention of braised cat. The mental image that obviously comes to her right away is that of the cooking and eating of a specific, individual, animal, and it's no wonder that she responds with horror.

Now, it is true that some animals, such as rabbits, ducks and chickens, do sometimes straddle the line between pets and livestock. However, I would be willing to wager that the people who do keep such animals as pets either do not eat them at all- either the pets themselves or other members of the species, or have a certain amount of difficulty with doing so. I am reminded here of one of James Herriot's anecdotes, about a pig-farmer of his acquaintance. This farmer was apparently a fairly typical example of the hardbitten, taciturn, Yorkshire dalesman. However, when it came time each year to slaughter the pigs, his wife had to do all the work, while he sat in the farmhouse kitchen and cried.

Anyway, Bigazzi's been suspended by the network, not to mention shouted at by a number of public figures, including the Undersecretary of Health. He's also now claiming that he was sort of joking: "Mind you, I wasn’t joking all that much. In the 1930s and 1940s, when I was a boy, people certainly did eat cat in the countryside around Arezzo." And so we come back to the idea of cat-eating as a symptom of very hard times - as mentioned above, that was not a happy era for Tuscany.

(A minor note about the Times article linked to here: I don't know where they got the "in-show" quotes that they attribute to Bigazzi, but he doesn't utter them in the clip that I've given you here)

To close, I would issue a reminder that Italy does have a specific law against the eating of cats (dogs, too). I think there's similar legislation in Canada, but if there isn't, there should be.

UPDATE: Chorus, in the comments, gives us a heads-up that Bigazzi has now in fact been fired. And indirectly reminds me to link to these people!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Time Wasting Ahoy!

First of all, if you ever want to have a productive day at work again, you probably shouldn't read any further. We here at De Koboldorum Rebus will accept no liability, etc. etc.

So, anyway, Sporcle. If you have not yet encountered Sporcle, it is a site given over to a very large number of user-created quizzes, on just about any subject imaginable. The best bit is that, once you have finished the quiz, you can take a pick at which answers were most commonly missed, and how your quiz score fits in with the rest of the world.

Sporcle, we are proud to announce, has now been infiltrated by kobolds. Yes, you can take, for example, your new-found expertise in the esoterica of NHL awards over to Sporcle and put it to use! And there are other res koboldorum to be found as well, not to mention a couple coming up the pipe...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

At Long Last! Part IV of the Trophy Series

Newsy Lalonde in the uniform of the Renfrew Creamery Kings

Apologies for the long delay, and general lack of blogging! Well, when we last delved into the dark world of NHL trophies, we finished up the major individual awards. So that leaves us with only a small collection of oddities: retired trophies, non-NHL trophies, and the like. Let us begin!

Sources this time around are, as usual,, Hockey Reference, and Wikipedia.

The O'Brien Cup: The O'Brien Cup was the championship trophy of the National Hockey Association, the NHL's immediate predecessor as an eastern Canadian professional league. It thus became the NHL's first championship mug, before being replaced by the Prince of Wales Trophy. The O'Brien Cup subsequently saw a number of different incarnations, including bizarrely, as the trophy awarded to the Stanley Cup final losers.

The O'Brien Cup is named for John Ambrose O'Brien, son of Senator Michael O'Brien, who was one of the founders of the town of Renfrew, and who actually donated the trophy. The younger O'Brien helped create the NHA, and owned several of its teams, including the awesomely named Renfrew Creamery Kings as pictured above (sadly, and despite O'Brien's best monetary efforts, the Creamery Kings never won the cup named after him). His most famous and lasting contribution to hockey was made in 1909, when, having noticed that there was no hockey team in Montreal specifically designed to capture the loyalty of the French-Canadian population, he and the owner of the Montreal Wanderers created the Canadiens.

The Lester Patrick Trophy: I've included this one in the "oddities" section because it's not really an NHL trophy, for all that it was donated by the New York Rangers. It's awarded to four people or groups annually to honour contributions to hockey in the United States, and is the only trophy of all of those discussed here to ever have been won by women; the U.S. women's Olympic team won it in 1998, and Cammi Granato won it individually in 2006.

Lester Patrick was a member of one of ice hockey's great family dynasties. The Patrick clan in fact boasts four members of the Hall of Fame, and name has appeared on a number of different trophies, divisions, &c. Lester Patrick had a distinguished playing career in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, which he and his brother Frank had founded, during the first quarter of the twentieth century (I should point at this juncture, however, that Lester Patrick also spent a season with the Renfrew Creamery Kings). His association with American hockey came after his playing days were done, when he became coach of the New York Rangers and led them to the Stanley Cup in 1928 and 1933. Famously, when his goalie Lorne Chabot went down injured against the Montreal Maroons during the '28 finals, the 43-year-old Patrick put himself in net for the rest of the game, which the Rangers duly won in overtime.

The Mark Messier Leadership Award: This somewhat self-explanatory trophy only entered service in 2006, and was awarded monthly for the first season of its existance. It is named, of course, after the former Oiler, Ranger, and Canuck star, the only man to have captained two teams to the Stanley Cup. In addition to having been donated by and named after Mark Messier, it has its recipients selected by Mark Messier. So far, none of those winners have been Oilers.

The Bud Light Plus-Minus Award: Formerly known as the Bud Ice Plus-Minus Award. Also formerly known as the Alka Seltzer Plus Award. Yeesh. Anyway, this one is awarded annually to the player who accumulates the best plus-minus over the course of the season. It has been named after bad beer and tummyache pills and at least one other corporate phenomenon.

Two Oilers have actually won the +/- award. You probably guessed that one of them was Wayne Gretzky, but if you figured out that the other one was Charlie Huddy, then good for you! And, just to bring us full circle, I wouldn't have a big problem if this one got renamed.